10. Orlando Magic (16-8)
Last week — Lost to Atlanta, lost at Portland, lost at Utah, won at L.A. Clippers
The Clippers were the cure for the common slump. Dwight Howard scored 22 as Orlando snapped its four-game skid.
9. New York Knicks (16-9)
Last week — Beat Minnesota, beat Toronto, won at Washington, beat Denver
Is this the part where we start talking about how Amar’e Stoudemire actually made Steve Nash look All-World? Because Ray Felton (18.3 ppg, 8.4 apg, 2.1 spg) is making a solid All-Star bid, and the Knicks have won eight straight while Nash’s Suns are struggling.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-8)
Last week — Lost at Chicago, won at Minnesota, won at New Orleans, beat Cleveland
Challenging week ahead for Thabo Sefolosha, who gets Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans and Jason Richardson on the schedule. Three pure scorers, three different styles. Good thing Thabo doesn’t have to worry about playing offense.
7. Utah Jazz (17-8)
Last week — Beat Memphis, lost to Miami, beat Orlando, lost at Dallas
If I had to pick right now, Deron Williams (22.7 ppg, 9.8 apg) would be starting for the Western Conference All-Star team, edging out Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
6. Chicago Bulls (14-8)
Last week — Beat Oklahoma City, won at Cleveland, beat L.A. Lakers, beat Minnesota
And if I had to pick the other side, Derrick Rose (25.1 ppg, 8.1 apg) would be starting for the East. Meanwhile, nine months ago I wrote that D-Will and D-Rose would be the top two PG’s in the League in a short matter of time.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (17-7)
Last week — Beat Washington, won at L.A. Clippers, lost at Chicago, won at New Jersey
All the off-court quirks and admirable charity acts have almost covered up the fact that Ron Artest kinda stinks right now. He’s averaging a career-low 7.6 points on a career-low 37% shooting from the field.
4. Miami Heat (17-8)
Last week — Won at Milwaukee, won at Utah, won at Golden State, won at Sacramento
During Miami’s eight-game win streak, Dwyane Wade has averaged 26.6 points, 7.7 boards and 5.1 assists.
3. Boston Celtics (19-4)
Last week — Beat Denver, won at Philadelphia, won at Charlotte
Ray Allen is never going to get old. He’s been allegedly “slowing down” for about three years, yet is still averaging 16.6 points on a balanced offensive team and sticking 43% beyond the arc, his highest percentage since 2002.
2. San Antonio Spurs (20-3)
Last week — Beat Golden State, beat Atlanta, beat Portland
Tony Parker (17.0 ppg, 7.0 apg, 52% FG) is having a horrible year and he’s lucky George Hill doesn’t have his job. (Let’s see how many people miss the sarcasm this week.)
1. Dallas Mavericks (19-4)
Last week — Beat Golden State, beat New Jersey, beat Utah
Three more home games this week as they try to keep the win streak, now at 12, going. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but if the Mavs take care of the Bucks, Blazers and Suns, Dallas at Miami on Dec. 20 is going to be a barn-barner.